MEDFORD, Ore. — Search efforts on the ground within the Camp Fire zone are a logistical nightmare — thousands of homes burned, hundreds of missing (the true number remains uncertain), and 81 confirmed deaths with only a handful of those people identified. With such staggering work ahead for Californian authorities, search and rescue (SAR) teams from Southern Oregon have been lending a hand.
SAR teams from Jackson, Josephine and Klamath counties heeded the call for aid — with some teams still at work in the Paradise area, some already returned, and others on their way back.
Jackson County's team demobilized on Wednesday in order to head home for the Thanksgiving holiday.
"There is still a lot of work to do in Paradise and we may be called upon to return. In the meantime, we’re sending thoughts of healing to the community there," the Jackson County Sheriff's Office posted.
Meanwhile, Klamath County's SAR team has been on the ground in Butte County since Sunday. They sent five volunteers down to help, facing "long days and unsettling work, but all agreed it was the right thing to do," according to the Klamath County Sheriff's Office.
“This is what Search and Rescue is – this is what we do. We take on missions hoping to perform rescues and help people. Butte County would do the same for us,” said SAR Commander Brian Bryson.
Josephine County's team also traveled down on Sunday, sending two SAR deputies and six volunteers. They were set to work assisting the Butte County Sheriff's Office, National Guard and fire personnel in searching burnt residences — looking for victims of the Camp Fire in Paradise.
"Due to the National Weather Service putting out an alert for possible flash flooding in Butte County, California, Josephine County personnel will be returning home Wednesday morning November 21st, 2018," the Josephine County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. "This however is only the first operational period and an official request has been received for more assistance following the Thanksgiving Holiday."
There are reportedly 38 SAR volunteers from southwestern Oregon aiding California in the search.
All of this mutual aid is a result of CORSAR — California Oregon Search and Rescue. It describes a coalition between Southern Oregon and Northern California Sheriff's offices with a commitment to help one another in times of need.
"It is an honor to serve the public as a member of this distinguished and professional team," the Josephine County Sheriff's Office said.